Proposed redevelopment of William Smith warehouse, Norfolk St, Liverpool

Proposed Redevelopment of the William Smith Warehouse 61/63 Norfolk St

The debate about Liverpool’s heritage never really abates, and with the continuing threat from UNESCO to withdraw our World Heritage Site status it has again been much in the news.

Liverpudlians care deeply about our history, and cherish very much the tangible signs we retain around our city. This applies not only to our great statements of glorious days past such as the Royal Liver Buildings, St George’s Hall, and Lime St Station, but also to the less glamourous and obvious buildings that act as a conduit to both distant and more recent history.

You may be familiar with my (far too many) tweets, most of which are in relation to our history and buildings. My key aim, in addition to fuelling my own interest, is to encourage others to also appreciate our incredible history – that which we can still ‘see’ and that which is confined to ‘print’. Some tweets get more reaction than others but one topic that always generates a response is the loss of what people consider to be a heritage building. A recent example in case being that of Bushell’s Building on Springfield which was recently demolished by Mersey Fire for a steel training tower

Positively though more response comes from a good news story were a building is hopefully to be appropriately redeveloped – William Smith’s Warehouse!

At the time of writing the following tweet has, as you can see, proved very popular:

Baltic Creative has revealed plans to redevelop the unlisted building into a ‘Tech Hub’ for creative and digital businesses.

Planning permission has been granted, a design team appointed, and they are now seeking a main contractor with a view to starting works in November 2017. You can view the planning application here 16F/1133 and the ‘Design & Access Statement’ by K2 Architects here

People will have their own views (I love them) on the architectural/aesthetic merits of the redevelopment but there does seem to be universal approval for the efforts to save the building.

Part of the appreciation for the building comes from living memories of the site as Guinness Export, a large local employer for many years, and also as a result of it being one of a dwindling number of such buildings remaining in the Baltic Triangle (and indeed in the wider city).

A Short History of the Building

The building was built in two phases, the first phase in 1881 a 4-storey storage warehouse. It was then expanded with a 2-storey extension in 1882 along Simpson St and what was the lower part of Brick St. According to historical records the buildings were built by William Smith, a paper stock, metal and general merchant who lived at 78 Gregson St Everton, and later in Great George Square. The 1881 Street Directory lists William Smith, Marine Store Dealer at 61-63 Norfolk Street. A Marine Store Dealer was a licensed broker who bought and sold used cordage, bunting, rags, timber, metal and other general waste materials. He usually sorted the purchased waste by kind, grade etc. He also repaired and mended sacks etc.

Documents then indicate that Smith became bankrupt in 1895.

Fire insurance maps from 1890 show the buildings as a ‘Rag WHSE’ and ‘Rag Sorting’, which suggest the buildings use initially continued unchanged:

1890 – Fire Insurance Map

The K2 Architects documents say:

‘the smaller section to the rear is of a different style and proportion, suggesting it was used for something other than storage. Our research would suggest it housed a delivery entrance and an office/admin area. The huge 500mm thick walls, highly engineered facade and crafted metal work over the entrance would also suggest this warehouse was of high importance when Liverpool was at the height of its trading days’

Looking at the 1906 map we see the building is neighboured by a ‘Bottle Works’. This at some point became part of Guinness Export Bottling Plant, as did the Smith Warehouse.


By the 1930s the building is listed as a Seed Merchants – A S Hooper, whose name can still be seen above the corner doorway:

A S Hooper

I need to do some more research on the Guinness tenancy, but it is apparent that Guinness Export Ltd expanded several times over the years and many have good memories of working at the plant (I would love to hear more), before it finally closed in early 1986 with the loss of many jobs. Local MP at the time Robert Parry would raise this in Parliament in the context of the wider catastrophic Merseyside job losses.

In 1988/89 the main building, which was originally between Brick St and Norfolk St, and which had stood empty for a number of years was leased by Skillian an Australian Self Storage Company. It is now home to Safestore

How refreshing is it, that at a time when developers are so keen to send in the bulldozers, that a local organisation with local interests at heart are prepared to go that extra mile to preserve rather than destroy. Of course, this is not just out of sentimentality but because they feel it makes good business sense and meets the needs of a unique area of  Liverpool.

I wish Baltic Creative all the best in their endeavours to bring these buildings back to life, and hope they have good luck in overcoming the inevitable hurdles ahead.

Let’s hope this is not the last such redevelopment in the Baltic Triangle.

…………..a few interesting snippets thanks to people on Twitter:

John Coakley‏ @jhcoakley

I see W Smith lived in 30 Great George Square, where my grandfather and uncle lived and worked as GPs. I then worked in Guinness Exports….

You weren’t allowed to drink the Guinness. It was a bonded warehouse patrolled by HM Customs. Instant dismissal or prosecution…. ….nevertheless you came home reeking of Guinness!

We sent Guinness all over the world (a lot of embassies), which is how I knew where to buy it in Greece.

If you are interested in historic Liverpool warehouses I thoroughly recommend reading this book/PDF file

Storehouses of Empire

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Fruit Exchange, Victoria St

A building that comes from a key trade in Liverpool, a building sadly in disrepair:

HISTORY: No.10-16 Victoria Street was built in c.1888 as a railway goods depot for the London & North Western Railway and was converted into a fruit exchange in 1923 by James B Hutchins. The building was originally constructed to serve Exchange Station on Tithebarn Street (the first station was built in 1850 and a larger version constructed in 1886-8; this eventually closed in 1950). After its change of use in 1923 the Fruit Exchange became the main trading point for fruit produce within the city and dealt with the majority of fruit imports coming into Liverpool. Warehouses in the Mathew Street area behind were used to store the fruit sold at the exchange. In the late C20 the lower ground floor was converted into separate public houses.

A must see video from the BBC:

Fruit Exchange, Victoria Street, exterior, 1940 – zoomable image

Lets hope a new use can be found and this gem is still here for future generations to see

As featured in the Liverpool Echo: Pictures by Colin Lane – April2016

The Fruit Exchange is owned by Cloudbluff Properties, whose director, Robert McGorrin, has been hoping to secure a viable long-term future for it since 2009.

He says: “It’s a great building – the auction rooms are unbelievable. There is so much history attached to the place.”

Footnote: I am advised that the owners have been carrying out some work to preserve the structural integrity of the building. As for future usage the Grade II listing of the building limits the alterations that can be made. Options are being explored.

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Main Street Mersey – 1955

Embark on a tour of Liverpool with comic actor Deryck Guyler and his nephew, Keith, who asks rather too many questions for his uncle’s liking. As well as the two-mile Mersey Tunnel, a pair of cathedrals and Calderstones Park, where “there’s always a pageant of colour and fragrance”, some of the city’s lesser-known charms are on show, not least the most elaborate wine dispenser ever, hidden in the Town Hall’s silverware collection.

When this film was shown in cinemas in the mid-1950s audiences would have instantly recognised the voice of Deryck Guyler, who was already a stalwart of BBC Radio Light Programmes. He would later enter the realm of TV and feature film, including a memorable role in A Hard Day’s Night (1964), and is probably best remembered for his sitcom roles, including PC ‘Corky’ Turnbull in Sykes, and caretaker Norman Potter in Please Sir!



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Parr St Mill – Fire Report

For those who have followed my many tweets about the 2016 Parr St mill fire here is a link to the Liverpool City Council Report:


5.0 Recommendation

It is recognised that the unauthorised demolition represent a 
criminal act, which the Council take seriously.
However, it is also recognised that there are practical 
difficulties with serving an Enforcement Notice requiring the 
warehouse to be re-built and that the parties involved in this 
case could present a reasonable defence to a prosecution.

Given the considerations above, it is concluded that a prosecution or the 
serving of any Notice, is unlikely to be successful. It is therefore concluded 
that it is not expedient to take any further formal action in this 
case. may query why it took the planning enforcement team one 
month to contact the developer to advise planning permission is 
needed and demolition must cease

Time-line of Events

12 February 2016 – Building Control application DEM/0012/16 validated, estimating date of commencement of demolition as 5 July 2016

24th June – fire occurs

26th June – Site inspected by XXXX structural engineer

27th June 2016 – email notification of commencement of demolition sent to LCC Building Control

instructions were given to Mees Demolition to undertake works

Access also given to the site to ADS ad XXXX (Civil & Structural Engineers) re to carry out structural reports

28th June 2016 – Report dated 28th June 2016 issued to Mees demolition

13th July 2016 – site inspection undertaken, ADS Structural Engineers

14th July 2016 – Mees aware demolition had begun

21st July 2016 – Complaints received July 2016 re demolition of building.

28th July 2016 – planning enforcement team contact developer to advise planning permission is needed and demolition must cease

29th July 2016 – developer email to WYG, architects, asking to advise contractors to cease demolition

23rd August 2016 – Cautioned Letters Sent to:

Falconer Chester Hall: WYG: Wolstenhome Square Developments Ltd

Mees Property Group – no response: Mainsway Ltd

17th March 2017: Council report finally made available

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A History of St. Andrew’s Scottish Presbyterian Church Rodney St., Liverpool – Ebook

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On the south perimeter wall, facing Maryland St, the modern graffiti poetically declares;

‘Happiness is a journey not a destination’

I don’t know the motivation of the writer but the phrase does somehow feel appropriate to the church it ‘adorns’.

St. Andrew’s has certainly been on a journey, and I have no doubt it has indeed brought much happiness over the past 192 years. That is not to say it has been a journey without turmoil, it certainly has, but 2017 and the church’s current re-incarnation housing students on the outset of adult life is perhaps a cause for happiness in itself.

As to the ‘destination’ I will leave it to those of a more theological persuasion to consider.

The history I have collated will hopefully give you a good feel of the history and legacy of St. Andrew’s and its congregation. I would like to acknowledge the very kind assistance provided by Dr John Henderson, formerly Clerk to the Congregational Board of St. Andrew’s during its later years worshipping at the Anglican Cathedral.

I hope you enjoy reading the book, and the many avenues it may lead you along. It would be nice to think that it will reach as many people as possible with connections to St. Andrew’s, or indeed the wider Scottish Liverpool community – please share widely and acknowledge source.

Get in touch if you have any personal stories or hidden gems you can add!


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The rapidly disappearing Liverpool

It is easy for some to label those who wish to preserve our built heritage as ‘heritage looneys’ or ‘stuck in the past’ etc. I am one of those who see the wisdom in retaining, were feasible, what we can. Not just for my generation but for those who follow us. Every time I walk past an old building I want to learn about it, and from learning about the building I learn about our heritage in all its wondrous forms.

If you take 2016 as an example, the following gallery will show you just how quickly our past can be lost. All the buildings pictured have already been demolished this year or are currently subject to planning applications……. and once they have gone they have gone. Lets be careful we are not discarding the past in the race for the future. Progress by all means but please make preservation at least a consideration……or better still look after and maintain them in the first place!

UPDATE at 13th April 2017: Apart from Clares/Bushell’s Building, demolition of which is now in progress, all these have now gone!

Please let me know if I have missed any buildings from the list.


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A History of St. Paul’s Church and Square, with Contemporary Cuttings

As I walk around Liverpool, which I do on an almost daily basis, the one question above all others I hear myself saying is along the lines of ‘What was there before?’. Sometimes the answer is easy and is within living memory, other times a quick Google search will suffice. The best times though are when it takes in-depth research to unearth the layers of history a particular building, street, or place may be masking beneath its latest incarnation. This has been the case with St. Paul’s Square and its current 21st Century temples of glass and steel.

What was intended as research for a blog post became more fascinating than I had imagined, and developed into a piece of work hopefully more significant.

If you can I would encourage you to first walk around, or visit virtually, the St. Paul’s Square we have today. Then as you read the full research immerse yourself in the winds of change this fascinating spot has experienced over the past 250+ years.

‘St. Paul’s Church-yard’, as it was initially called, was laid out c1760 on what was then ‘Dog Field’. Steers Dock was but 45 years old but Liverpool was now growing into one of the UK’s and indeed World’s key ports. I very much doubt that those who planned the square had envisaged the incredible wave of change that was soon to engulf both it and the growing town.

The next 250 years tells a tale of a city condensed into a square of just 50 yards by 64 yards. It has elements of immigration, religious intrigue, social change, tragedy, industry, commerce, health care, innovation, entertainment, re-birth, and a world first.

I hope to update the research in coming months as I gather further information, some hopefully shared by readers of this blog post.

If you are interested in helping get the PDF ‘published’, or printed for free distribution to interested parties then I’d love to hear from you!

Please click on the following link to open PDF, and I hope you enjoy!

A History of St. Paul's Church and Square, with Contemporary Cuttings

A History of St. Paul’s Church and Square, with Contemporary Cuttings

St Pauls_History_Liverpool1207_v6

 It would be great to hear your thoughts, cheers.




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The Future for Dale Street?

Liverpool city centre is a busy, vibrant and welcoming success story, which through difficult times still manages to expand. It is however true that some streets fare less well than others, and one of these is one of our original 7 streets dating from the 1200’s – Dale Street. Not without its own notable successes though. The soon to open Double-Tree by Hilton Hotel (awaits the inevitable councillor selfies), the impressive Royal Insurance Assurance rescue into the Aloft Hotel. The ongoing conversion of ‘Two Moorfields’ into residential units. The Ibis Hotel and Tesco with some excellent facade retention, and smaller successes like Sixty Dale St, Delkery, and JD Gyms.

If you take time to walk along the north side however you will notice what could be a sign of tough times ahead with empty units, derelict empty spaces, and stalled schemes which promised much:

  • Nos. 31 – 37 empty office block – Guardian Assurance Building
  • Nos. 53 – 55 empty former Workforce Recruitment office – part of current ‘Two Moorfields’ development?
  • ‘Jamaica House’ site empty demolished site since Dec 2007
  •  No. 73 empty former Top Hat Records block
  •  No. 75 New Oxford House empty upper floors, in poor repair
  •  Princes Building – PRS unit empty. Uncertainty over building conversion. Has this stalled? (inc. 10 Hockenhall Alley, and 11 – 13 Cheapside)
  • Dale St shops Site – empty demolished site – stalled Dale St shops rebuild, Jamworks
  • Nos 97 – 105, ground floor units in use but scaffolded, upper floors empty and ‘derelict’?
  • Magistrates Courts – now large empty block with no publicised future use plans, also covers Hatton Garden
  • Corner of Hatton Garden – surface car park site
  • No. 127 – empty former Higsons Brewery office. Upper floors in use
  • Nos. 135 -137, empty ex-Middleton Solicitors. Upper floors in use?
  • Churchill Flyover – longer term uncertainty which may be affecting other investment decisions?

We have had some high profile publicity for schemes like the Dale St shops site, and Princes Building, and if they come off the picture becomes much brighter. The above list though does serve notice that Liverpool Council needs to take a pro-active approach to preserving one of our original thoroughfares and ensuring it shares in the city’s continuing success.

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The Picton – a cautionary rhyme


A Cautionary Rhyme by Maud Budden

You can’t make a noise in the Picton,
They won’t stand a clatter or brawl.
You must ask for your books
With intelligent looks
Or you won’t get a volume at all.

You can sing in the city Museum,
You can prattle away to the seal,
You can welcome the sight
Of each mummified fright
With a perfectly natural squeal

But you can’t make a noise in the Picton,
You can’t even splutter or choke.
If you ventured a cough
It might blow the dome off
And that would be more than a joke.

You can go the hall called St George’s
When students are getting degrees,
And can rupture your throat
With your shrillest top-note
And holler as much as you please.

But you can’t make a noise in the Picton,
Each sound is as bad as a sin.
Mr Parry looks bleak
If he hears a book creek
And he frowns at the fall of a pin.

You can laugh in the Walker Art building,
And shout with exuberant fun,
You can set up a whine
At the works on the line,
A thing which is frequently done.

But you can’t make a noise in the Picton,
Of that there is never a doubt,
And if you should walk
Through the entrance and talk
You’d be Picton and promptly pushed out!

As published in The Liverpolitan, October 1932

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Reece’s Ballroom, Parker Street, Liverpool

Local developers Jamworks are currently in the process of transforming the former Reeces Ballroom at 11 – 17 Parker Street, near to Clayton Square Shopping Centre, into 19 one-bedroom flats and 72 studios. The ground floor is currently Superdrug. Previous plans in 2011 by Tune Hotels did not come to fruition, and the floors have remained unused since the 1980’s.

During preparatory work a fascinating insights to the buildings history have been uncovered as illustrated in the following pictures:

The Beauty contest featured above was evidently to be attended by one of the world’s richest women, cosmetics entrepreneur Helena Rubinstein

S. Reece & Sons Ltd (incorporated 1908) had cafes across Liverpool including at Nos. 9, 11, 13 Parker St.  They also had offices, a dairy, and a bakery in Hawke St. Business must have been good as they invested in new premises built 1925 – 27 next door to the newly built Owen Owen building. Demolition started in 1923 as shown in the following pics (put cursor over for captions):

The building was ready for signing off during the summer of 1927 with the main building contractors of William Moss & Sons Ltd, Roscoe St Livepool having been the earlier successful tender:

£109, 287 Dated 11th Jan 1926 – ‘materials and labour in the Erection and Completion of Messrs. Recces’ new premises Clayton Square Liverpool’

The Records Office at Liverpool Central Library holds a large number of records in relation to the tenders, correspondence and architects drawings. The architects being Edmund Kirby & Sons of 5 Cook St Liverpool.

Plans for the 4th Floor

Plans for the 4th Floor

The ‘Spring Floor’ was supplied and fitted by Francis Morton, Junior & Co, London,  who also supplied the Grafton Rooms, and the  Adelphi Hotel

P1010973The build was clearly not without issues. A parquet floor needed replacing after lifting, there were arguments over awarding of contracts, a long running dispute with Standard Telephones & Cables Ltd over the music and wireless system supplied, and work was halted during the General Strike of 1926.

The LRO records show there were many fine fittings and décor, especially in the Lodge Room/Masonic Suite: – ‘six columns for Lodge Room – Doric, Corinthian, and Ionic together with the pilasters are to be fluted’ 

The Ladies Cloak Room was fitted with ‘ruboleum’ –


The layout of the building is apparent from a ‘Copy of Information re stairs, lifts etc. supplied to Liverpool Police’

Basement:Smoke-room 73ft x 50ft x 13’ 1’’ high, and Lounge 34ft x 24ft x 13’ 1’’ high
Ground Floor Shop and light refreshments 110ft x 50ft x 17’ 1’’ high
1st FloorMain Dining Room – 110ft x 50ft x 11’10’’ high
2nd floorCafé – 110ft x 50ft x 11’7’’ high
3rd FloorBall Room – 110ft x 50ft x 12’ high
4th FloorMasonic Suite 50ft x 55ft x 12’ high, and Banqueting Hall 66ft x 27ft x 12 high
5th Floor – Broken up into Cold Storage and other small rooms essential to the kitchen’ 110ft x 50ft x 11ft high

Back Staircase – 4ft wide
Main Staircase – 6ft wide
Emergency Escape Staircase – 3rd to ground floor only – 3’ 11’’ wide
Small goods lift – 4’ 6’’ x 4’ 4’’
Large goods lift – 6’ x 4’ 9’’
Main Passenger Lifts x 3 – 5’ 4’’ x 3’ 10’’

Once open the premises were clearly a hive of activity as can be seen from it’s adverts:


The cafe gets a mention in a book about the infamous Julia Wallace ‘Man from The Pru’ murder of 1931. One of the suspects, Richard Gordon Parry, having been arrested at the cafe for theft.

A piece from The Liverpolitan Vol.13 No.12 pg.33, December 1948 paints a delightful picture of the ballroom and gives us some social history:


   ‘The tremendous increase in the number of devotes of the Terpsichorean art must be apparent to every social observer. At one time dancing was a form of recreation enjoyed almost exclusively by the middle and upper classes. That is not the case today for the art is practised by practically all. This is largely due to the new freedom which has found expression in a thousand different ways since the end of the Great War, and partly to the discovery on the part of many who were formerly prejudiced against dancing as a pastime that its pursuit is in no way detrimental to morality.

With characteristic foresight, when Messrs Reece embarked upon the erection of their magnificent restaurant in Parker St, they decided that the whole of the third floor should be laid out as a ballroom. From the pictures reproduced on this page it will be seen that it is spacious and airy. The spring floor is of the most modern construction and gives perfect enjoyment to the patrons. Another advantage is found in its easy accessibility from all parts.

During the winter, tea dances are held every afternoon in the week, and except on Wednesdays and Saturdays, no charge is made to those who reserve tables for tea. On Wednesday and Saturday afternoons the charge is 1s, which does not include refreshments, whilst on Saturday nights the charge is 2s. 6d.

The music is provided by Reece’s own band under the leadership of Mr Bert Pearson. Playing together throughout the year has enabled the musicians to play a large selection of dance tunes with that rhythm and colour which makes dancing easy and creates a strong desire to take the floor.

   But one need not be a dancer to enjoy a visit to Reece’s ballroom. It attracts a sufficient number of elegantly apparelled dancers whose obvious ability and pleasure it is delightful to observe. Half an hour spent over tea on the fringe of the dance floor will offer rest and joy to jaded bodies and minds’

Reece’s was famously the venue for the wedding reception of John and Cynthia Lennon in 1962. As it was not a licensed premises, guests at the wedding breakfast had to toast the couple with water


Christmas was evidently a highlight at Reece’s, as highlighted by this cutting from The Liverpolitan magazine of December 1948 featuring manager Mr. E. A. Verando:

The Liverpolitan Dec 1948

The Liverpolitan Dec 1948

Many renown guests over the years included LFC shareholders:


An advert from 1934:

From the Liverpolitan Nov 1934

From the Liverpolitan Nov 1934

Were you a Reesonian?……why not share your memories of Reece’s? Did you read the company magazine first issued 31st Dec 1930?

The developers vision post re-development with roof-top extension:


UPDATE – Nov 2016: with pics

Developer Caro Developments is about to convert the upper floors of the Parker Street building, which in 1962 hosted the wedding of John and Cynthia Lennon to apartments. Tony McDonough reports.


Liverpool Records Office references:

338.1 Ree – Reesonian 31st Dec 1930

720KIR/2699, 2700, 2701, 2702, 2697, 2698 – various correspondence, drawings, tenders etc held by architects Edmund Kirby & Co.


Posted in 1900 - 1949, Buildings, Projects | Tagged , , | 7 Comments